When a Consecrated Host Falls

Author: Father Edward McNamara


When a Consecrated Host Falls

ROME, 24 MAY 2005 (ZENIT)

Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: What is the proper procedure when a consecrated Host falls on the floor when distributing Communion? We were told to leave the consecrated Host on the floor till the Communion procession is over, then pick up the Host and put it in a bowl of water to dissolve and then pour the contents on a plant in the church or down the sacristy sink. Is the dissolved Host still the Body of Christ? Is this a new directive to be followed? — M.B., Upper Sackville, Nova Scotia

A: This subject is addressed in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 280:

"If a host or any particle should fall, it is to be picked up reverently. If any of the Precious Blood is spilled, the area where the spill occurred should be washed with water, and this water should then be poured into the sacrarium in the sacristy."

There is no mention of leaving the host on the floor, and in fact it should be picked up immediately, both out of respect for the Lord and lest it be trampled by unwary communicants.

Nor is there any indication about dissolving the host. I would say that, if the host remains clean, then either the minister or the communicant should consume it directly.

The process of dissolving the host in water may be used in special conditions if a host had been seriously soiled. Once the host is dissolved, the water may be poured directly upon the earth or down the sacrarium — the special sacristy sink that leads to the earth, not to a drain.

It should not be poured down a common sink.

With respect to the presence of Christ, most theologians would hold that, although the host externally remains intact for several days, the real presence would cease as soon as the host is fully soaked with water as from that moment the species is no longer exclusively that of bread.

It is necessary to wait for the host to dissolve, out of respect for what once contained the presence of Christ and in order to avoid any danger or appearance of a host being discarded or profaned. ZE05052423

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